Altius is a social education movement that we launched in India in 2009. Altius offers an alternative education process to achieve both professional and life goals whilst also upholding moral values, love and integrity. Most of the regular academic curricula are aimed at certification for securing jobs that lead onward to one's professional goals. Altius is larger in scope. Altius’ alternative education is aimed at assisting youth towards formulating and aiming to achieve the all-encompassing goals of life, which one sets as ‘life’s mission in this world’.

The Altian thinking flows as follows - we are born into this world and destined to live here for some time. No one will differ that we should live happily as long as we live. Great seekers of truth, prophets and lovers of and nature have all been trying to discover and formulate paths towards happiness. Many social theories, schools of philosophy, religious thoughts and political doctrines were born. Social doctrines often rely on contemplative discoveries and time-relevant subjective views. From time to time such social doctrines are challenged by our amazing inventions, advancements in science and technology and by our dramatically changing lifestyles. These transformations necessitate reinterpreting the older social doctrines to communicate with the contemporary society. The objective of Altius is to re-frame, re-define and re-interpret what the seers, spiritual leaders and philosophers have taught as the means to contentment, more in context of present day challenges in life. Altius aims to harmonize the value systems from the past and the present.

Prioritization: Altius also focuses on setting the priority between the goals of life and the processes to achieve the goals. It is often the question on which of the two is more important.  In fact the balancing of the two is a trail that we all face in modern times. On account of increasing competitiveness on the one hand, and the struggles of making marks of achievement in a short lifetime on the other hand, it is commonplace for youth to be led to believe that achievement by whatsoever means is all that matters. Professional goals therefore are overvalued. At Altius we say that an experiencing journey is important. Also that one should reach the destination enjoying the sights on the way. How one achieves any goal is as important as the process of achieving it.

Altian thinking developed from the desire to see a young generation more inclined to value-based lifestyle. We envisioned for youth the adoption of a lifestyle that upholds truth, love and service mindedness en route to achievements and overall success. Youth need to be awakened from their materialistic social conditioning and become aware of the spiritualistic parameters to lead a life towards meaningful contentment. The Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad, Adi Sankara, Karl Marx, and Narayana Guru are some that devoted their life to find paths to arrive at the true definition and right formula for life. 

Teaching methods: People generally learn by seeing, reading, hearing and thus experiencing. What is seen and experienced is assimilated faster than any other sensory learning process.  Leaders set the examples by what they do. Altius has a course modelled on a set of practices that help to evolve the person. The lives of role models are discussed in Altius meetings. Main among them is Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Che Guevara, Vivekananda and Narayana Guru. What is common in them is the unconditional love for humankind. The lives and teachings of these great persons from recent history and related books are discussed. Students are encouraged to individually evolve a spiritual formula which will act as the beacon in their life.

Reaching out: How do we do that? We target university students who are starting to think independently and are also highly receptive to ideas and adaptive to change through education. So Altius works among the youth. We send information requesting the university students to pen down their ideas to transform the society by changing themselves. Altian students are selected through various workshops at district, state, national and international level. Mentoring programs are conducted regularly, where seniors mentor the juniors even outside the educational environment. They share reflections on the good books they read and their great experiences in daily life in the online Altius forums and workshops. Other practical learning methods include volunteering to run moral science classes for high school students, engaging in farm assistance, volunteering to assist with household chores etc.  These tasks are essentially aimed at helping students to become public speakers, self-reliant and to de-condition their ego.

 

Through Altius the youth in the cities we operate usher in a new civic culture of truth, love and ethics.  When they smile they spread energy and the others get recharged positively. Altians aim to become the inspiration to others to bring about a chain of transformation. Altius’ vision is to better our lives and lives of others and thus make this world the best place to live.

 

The American cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead once wrote “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Author :
Priyadas Mangalath

for the socially committed altians
Anoop Dhanwanthari
Every Altian keeps repeating that Alitus is a journey for being Globally Competent and Socially Committed. Don’t we? Everyone knows at least something on the latter part of this slogan by being a witness to various expressions of it. Or even some imitations of it…
But what is it that you infer from Global Competence? What all constitute this?
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Global Competency is a Mindset?
The very question of Global competency arises only if one has a certain vision for his/her future. It is a question of how you want to lead your life.
If one is satisfied with the current atmosphere and is confident of making most of it that assures a fulfilling life and career, then you can just take it easy ! And I assure you, there is nothing wrong with it either ! It is strictly a personal point of view and decision and we respect that.
But if you think you are cut out for ‘bigger’ things (purely a relative term here) in life, and you are looking at a professional life spanning continents and want to achieve glory at an International arena, be our guest!
But how you do it? But before that, let us look at those primary visible ingredients for Global Competence. Once you know that you can comprehend how to achieve each one of them more easily.
All are advised to be in their formals and to be eager to assimilate the nuances of English language before we start.. But will this be sufficient for this sophisticated Journey? Let us go deeper into each component now
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Dressing: Ideally dressing is a matter of personal choice. It depends on the taste or aesthetics of the individual, his impressions of the different occasions and generally the climatic conditions that person lives in.
But in a journey for achieving Global Competence, things are quite different. The way you are dressed is very critical in the pursuit of achievement as this gives the first impression while you meet a person concerned. In a way this represents you as an individual and your intensions for the meeting. A casual wear is for enjoyment and represents celebration of youth. So this impression may not suit your purpose. Who will want to assign somebody
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for a serious and responsible job if the candidate looks careless or casual?
Imagine a male candidate of Scottish origin wearing his traditional dress, kilt, for attending an interview with an MNC, for a critical post involving public interaction. He would be rejected even before it starts. Similarly even an established person would look odd with a dhothi in a multi-cultural crowd with persons of better social standing. (The same person in the same style creates another impression in a different gathering if he is the key person attending. Ironically, people tend to appreciate whatever the ‘best person’ of the evening is doing!)
Haven’t you seen very successful personalities go back to their traditional style while attending family functions or religious events? Can we say that this person is not Globally Competent then? Nobody goes to Cinema or a family tour wearing only formals. But a typical Malayalee entrepreneur would wear only formals for an outside the State or International meetings while he easily manages with traditional dressing in Domestic circles.
Similarly, the classifications such as formal, semi-formal or casual differs with different culture. In the Westernized Corporate World, there are different types of suits for
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different occasions. The type and colour of the tie we use, choice of corsets, cuffs etc play a major role in showing an individual in the right light.
So the crux is that one wears for the occasion. One should have the sense to know what is the nature of the meeting or gathering and what is expected of him. A Globally Competent person gels with every crowd with different style.
Mindset needed : Dressing thing has been a cultural thing for ages. As interactions and subsequent transactions between different cultures became inevitable in this modern era, people started to look more closely into other cultures as well. A standard dress code emerged though instigated by the corporate compulsions.
So what we need is the true respect for other cultures and an openness to adopt them as per the occasion demands.
What Altius does? : Give an insight to the students on different cultures and the nature of interactions required if they want to proceed further to the attainment of Global Competence. The dress codes for different occasions are discussed. Real concept behind formal wear is told to them and they are shown how to do it. For example they are given instructions and training on how to wear a tie, to
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lace a shoe or to choose the right suit for different occasions.
Language – It is said that “Language is the key to every culture”. But here, it is the key to the ascent to the higher ladders of your Career. The moment you try express in English to a group of people (for eg. An interview board) they would assess your fluency with the language. This shows how well prepared you are to take the journey. That
could be a major factor if they would allow you to be on board.
Even if you are a technical person or a creative person, the required talents may not include the language skill. But every job becomes a Management one once you traverse up beyond a certain point. There you’ll be required to be in constant communication with your subordinates as well
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as superiors. By the time you’ll find yourself somewhere in the middle ages when learning a language may not be your right idea of free time.
Nowadays we find many communications in English with mutilated words and handicapped structuring! To make this ancient and disciplined language compatible to modern gadget use, the new generation adopted a user friendly but disfigured version of it under the name ‘chat lingo’. Now things have evolved this far that anyone not using this lingo is not considered modern !
The communication within friends circle is entirely free of any restrictions. But when one is required to communicate officially or to a different age group, the language has to be within a stipulated structure and with certain grace. Can you imagine texting ‘hw r u’ or “gr8 2 c” to a respected priest or a scholar? They can take such communications as sheer disrespect and insult.
Also one has to be careful with the choice of words and in English, some words can be tricky. The connotation of such words could be misleading to an average student. So one has to adopt the right words for the right intension in communication.
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But does mastering English language guarantee you the full security of this aspect of Global Competence. The answer is obviously ‘no’ ! English can be termed only as a ‘bridge language’ in the maximum. The colonial British rule and later the meteoric economic supremacy of the United States over other cultures bestowed a special status for English especially in the Corporate world. Later it evolved as the best possible common language platform between different cultures.
If you go to non-British parts of Europe, Latin America or different parts of Asia, you’ll find that your English skill is of little assistance at times. Either they won’t know this language at all or their versions of English could be alien to you. The accents of the same language in different world can impair the communication. And both could be amused at how weird the other sounds!!
So you cannot stop at mastering English as you’ll realize this was only the first step once you become a Globe-trotter. In this fast changing World, one who calls the shots in Economic World prevails. And who knows, in another decade Global citizens could be busy taking crash courses in Hindi, Mandarin or Spanish !
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Therefore, though English could be the first step, the more multi-lingual you are, more are the chances that you climb the cliff faster and smoother.
Mindset needed: Malayalees are good at languages as a community. This could be because of the fact that we have been migrating even to the nooks and corners of the world decades before. The second or third generation of those Diaspora might have exerted their influence to our current Society. And the fact that they earn their living with those foreign cultures has given us a mindset to respect those cultures even if for our own practical purposes.
The communication in any Language has many aspects to it. To master a language they have to know how to read
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and write too apart from speaking the language. So impress with English you have to start reading a lot, writing proper English and speaking whenever possible in English. As most of it would be required as conversational type, it is better to include Fictions along with Newspapers or Magazines. (The latter strengthens the foundation.)
What Altius does? : Encourages reading books. (Please see ANNEXURE V ). Then the students are asked for a short review on the same. This is hared within the mail group and deliberations on them are encouraged.
Students are urged to use proper English in the conventional style while mailing or writing anything on or for Altius. It acts as a training room for writing proper English.
Speaking in English is mandatory in every Altius camps even while offline. They are made to address the gathering whenever possible to wear off their inhibitions and mental blocks. The ambiance within the camp is made conducive for expressing themselves in English in their best possible manner in spite of making grammatical and meaning wise mistakes.
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Body Language: Now that you’ve an impressive dressing style and command over language, body language is the next one that you’ve to look out for. This is one of the least exposed aspects for a student if not the entire population. The biggest problem is that most of it could be involuntary. So even if one is made aware of its different connotations, they may not succeed fully to keep it perfect.
Body language could be an expression that flashes across your face, involuntary gestures or even the different postures `you are adopting while communicating. The biggest problem faced by most is while facing an audience. We are confused on what to do with out hands, how to stand and what all mannerisms (like tugging at the shirt, probing for the belt, feeling your pockets etc.) can look odd and expose your inner uneasiness and stage fright.
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On other occasions, like interviews for example, the rigidity of your body, shaking hands, perspiring palms, dry throat, animated gestures or even playing with the pen or paper weight on the table unwittingly etc would send wrong signals to the interviewer. They are made aware of the fact that despite being well dressed and well spoken, the candidate is nervous and shaky that exposes the candidate’s confidence in poor light.
The handshakes are also made a part of this. They can read your confidence from the firmness of the grip or it duration. (Mentioned more in the Etiquette section.)
Body language conveys things beyond our intended looks and speech. If it contradicts what you are trying to communicate, that could seriously tamper the spirit of your communication. It is applicable in most of our day to day communications.
Mindset needed : Having confidence is the key here. Communication in a relaxed state ensures that your body language supplements what you are trying to get across.
You need to do the self assessment and a positive notion of yourself. Need to be mentally prepared before important meetings. Make sure that you know the subject
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well and that you have taken care of the other aspects of Global Competence like dressing, language etc. Finally you have to be prepared for worst and convince yourself that this will not affect you in the longer run even if this looks very important at the moment. Expect the unexpected and be confident and relaxed. Then you will achieve the expected.
What Altius does? : Being aware is the first step to master anything. Altius Camps, especially Global Competency workshops, have specialized sessions on body language. Experts point out the common follies committed and how we are viewed by the audience while we address them.
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They are shown communications with different body languages. Then students are asked to do it and get trained by repeatedly doing it . The students acting as audience are asked to assess each such performance and to share among themselves. They are motivated read further what is latest in Body language research.
(Please refer to ANNEXURE II)
Etiquette : This can be broadly termed as a set of norms on how you and conduct yourself for different occasions. It varies with occasions, locations, time of the day, cultures or the purpose of the gathering. It mainly concerns with your dressing, make up, how you greet (This differs with whether the person is a gentleman or lady, different groups, class and social status of the person or your relation with that particular person), how you eat, sit, talk or drink etc.
It goes deeper into each aspect to denote different impressions you are giving the other person. For example, in a culture where you shake hands with the other person as a greeting, the hands (left or right) you choose for the purpose conveys something. Also the pressure applied on the other person’s palm or firmness of the grip, the position of your palm in relation with the other one, the
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duration of the handshake all conveys your intention for the meeting and the impression you have about the other person.
Similarly, in a country where you use spoon and fork for eating, the way use them or place them on the plate have well defined suggestions. Your use of napkins, noise made while chewing or the lack of concentration on the food you have, all gives away different impressions to an onlooker.
Also lot of care has to be taken while putting on make up before attending to an interview or a function. Having extra make up for official events is considered in bad
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taste. Like dressing, make up should be according the occasion.
One evolving set of norms while you communicate through electronic media is netiquette. i.e., Etiquette while using Internet. Like telephone conversations and face-to-face communication, e-mail communication has certain implied rules of behavior. While you mail or chat or use Social Media there certain norms depending on the person you are chatting with. For example, writing a mail in ‘all caps’ is considered rude. It is considered equal to screaming in real life. Or sending a message in ‘chat lingo’ to higher authorities or person whom we revere or even any elderly person could be taken as disrespect.
Some common tips on Netiquette are given below. It is likely more will be added as this mode of communication gets evolved. (These are actually excerpts from a mail forwarded in this regard some time back. Internet might have evolved further.) Be careful with humor and emotion. E-mail does not convey emotion well, so the recipient might not understand your intended tone. Sarcastic humor is particularly risky because the recipient might interpret it
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literally and take offense. To convey emotion, consider using emoticons. Think before you send. Writing and sending an e-mail message is fast and easy—sometimes too easy. Make sure you've thought out your message first, and avoid writing when you're angry. Once you send the message, you can't get it back. Use a clear and concise subject line. Summarize the contents of the message in a few words. People who receive a large amount of e-mail can use the subject to prioritize the message. Keep messages short. Although an e-mail message can be of any length, e-mail is designed for quick communication. Many people don't have the time or patience to read more than a few paragraphs. Avoid using ALL CAPITAL LETTERS. Many people perceive sentences written in all uppercase letters as "yelling" and find it annoying or offensive. Be careful with sensitive or confidential information. Any recipient can forward your message to others—either intentionally or accidentally. Additionally, in formal or business communication, avoid spelling and grammatical errors. Sloppy e-mail conveys an unprofessional image. Proofread your messages before
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you send them, and if your e-mail program has a spelling checker, use it.
(Please refer to the article by Sri TP Srinivasan, former Indian Diplomat on the etiquette given as ANNEXURE I.)
Mindset needed : Willingness to learn and adapt to different cultures is one vital ingredient here. For that we need to accept and respect every culture around. You must understand that each custom has a history to it and there is a reason for its evolution though unknown to you. Being socially sensitive to the cultures and the prevailing customs can avoid mishaps or setbacks and this can even gain respect
Once you observe and learn the customs and etiquette of a culture, you can start practicing it. In some cases, you might need assistance and only your friendly nature can fetch you good volunteers for the same. Collect most of the information and get even to the subtleties. If you can master it to perfection, that would attract more
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appreciation from your colleagues belonging to that culture. Emulating to perfection is the best way of appreciating a culture and you will get the same back from them too.
What Altius does ? : Altius concept teaches the students to adopt an all embracing attitude to every other culture or religion. It also stresses the need for flexibility and adaptability to individuals, situations, locations and the culture prevailing.
The Altius Camps have specific sessions on the etiquettes and netiquettes by experts. They are made to interact with internationally renowned Indians and former Diplomats who share their experiences with the students. At present it is focused on western versions as Global competence is considered as tool to perform well in the Corporate world that follows western etiquettes at present.
Internet skill : Internet is comparatively a new Media but a fast growing one indeed. No other Media has revolutionalized the communication world with such an impact and that too within such a short span of time.
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This has different aspects to it. You can send messages through mails or chats, or can send files independently or as attachment to mails, surf through different sites of learning,information, references, fun or enjoyment. In the modern world, person who is not well versed with this media is getting labeled as a kind of ‘illiterate’. A person who cannot even send emails cannot dream of any satisfactory assignments and just forget the desired ones!
Now that mobiles too are equipped with such facilities, you can virtually be in constant touch with World anytime. You are updated every second on the latest even from the nooks and corners of the World. You can even store your files in the virtual space that can be retrieved anytime without wasting the space in your hard disk. Now the new kinds of software operate from ‘clouds’ that could be accessed from anywhere anytime just with a password.
In the Social life, money transactions are undergoing some furious changes, online transfers, Core banking,
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ATMs, Foreign Exchanges etc have replaced conventional currency transactions. All Govt. offices are getting computerized and all public transactions are now becoming online. In India, Using navigators and mapping tools have altered our driving experience. Shopping is fast becoming online ones and you can now see umpteen numbers of such sites servicing in India. It is estimated that about 43% of the FMCG market has turned online!
National Population Registry is creating a history by collecting and storing data on its Citizens which enables access to all their personal details at the fingertips of the concerned. The list is never ending and every day or even every hour new apps are getting implemented in different parts of the World.
Social Media like Facebook, Twitter etc. are no longer some ‘socializing for fun’ sites. It has gone deeper into the personal and public life of its members. The citizens of the Social Media, if considered as a nation, easily would surpass the biggest populated country in the World.
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Recently we had witnessed its potential, while learning on the public unrest and protest in many countries around. It was successful in toppling at least a handful of governments and many World renowned leaders were brought to justice by the iron will of its citizens. In India, we know that recent massive protest against the rape of a girl in New Delhi was totally instigated and fuelled only by Social Media.
So in a nutshell, without awareness, knowledge and even good skill in the Computer, Internet and in modern personal gadgets a person will not even survive in the future. So any speculation is not needed on the importance of being the citizen of this Cyber World.
On the flip side, it is an equally potent weapon for misuse. Students get easily addicted to it. The danger of addiction in this is more than that of Television or similar ones (that are used by the whole family), as this is used more as personal. Proliferation of porn sites, unhealthy cam chats, hidden cams, sites that are controlled by terrorists etc.
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have definitely vitiated the Cyber World. An individual’s present and future lives, including career, can be seriously threatened by it if not approached judiciously. It is not advisable to use Internet, especially surfing sites and unauthorized downloading, without proper awareness of the Cyber laws prevailing in the country you are living.
Mindset needed : To make a resolve to learn the use of Internet is very much easy nowadays as one if left with the impression that without this knowledge you won’t survive in this World. Having that part addressed, what we need to have is self discipline and its sensible use.
It is very easy to get addicted to this Medium and you can spend hours in a trot without even being aware of the elapse of time. While making a habit of checking mails and replying regularly, you have to put stipulated time frames within which you do it. For College Projects you may have to go deeper at times and being aware of the purpose of your logging could help you to complete this with a focus. You may not be able to
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avoid Social Media altogether. But you can always make a resolve to do it for just 30 minutes or so in a day. (I would suggest even putting alarm near your Computer to achieve this in the initial stages!)
Also please do realize that you are communicating to invisible group of persons who are total strangers to you. It is not advisable to post personal (especially in the case of females) and family photos in the public realm. Make sure that only your known friends have access to them. Also, you personal information like bank account nos., credit card numbers or passwords should never be made public. Misuse of personal information and photographs are getting rampant in the Cyber World.

It is also important not to get carried away by the access to anything and everything available on Internet. You must be aware that downloading or circulating porn stuff, unauthorized files or copyrighted file, entry to restricted or classified sites etc. could attract serious implications. So an urge for skill development coupled with some self discipline is what is ideal here.

Author :
Anoop Dhanwanthari

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